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CHAPTER 38 A
Kacey woke before dawn and headed into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee. She stood by the window while she sipped the beverage. Normally she would already be in her flight suit, but after taking herself off the flight schedule, she remained in her ragged around the quarters clothes. She watched the sky lighten as dawn approached. Her mind wandered.
"What am I going to do about Kate?" She thought. "We can not avoid each other. Andromeda is a big ship but not that big. There is no way to avoid each other, not when we live right next door to each other. Especially when every major decision I make has to be approved by her."
"Ten credits for your thoughts." Natalia said as she came out of their bedroom."
"I am not sure if they are worth ten credits."
"Tell me anyway and I can decide if you owe me any change." She said as she kissed Kacey's cheek.
"I was just thinking if it were possible to avoid Kate for the rest of our journey."
"That is not possible honey. Not when you are the top two officers on the ship and you are forced by that fact to work so closely together."
"I can not change who I am Talia."
"No one has asked you to give up being who you are."
"It would make everyone happy if I hid myself away in my office."
"Define everybody." Natalia stated.
"My family especially Kate."
"That is not true . Yes we worry about you, but that is just because we love you. We would never try to change you in any way."
"Thank you sweetheart."
"What will you be doing today?"
"I plan on going to see if the troops need any help with the generators first. Maybe take a rover to check the outposts."
"Join me for lunch?"
"Of course. Does thirteen hundred hours work for you?"
"Certainly. How about I pick something up for both of us. The twins and I can meet you outside for a picnic lunch. That way you will not run the risk of running into Kate in the Mess Hall."
"That is an excellent idea." Kacey said. "I guess I should get showered."
"While you shower, I will get breakfast started before the twins wake up and demand attention."
Kate stood at the window and stared out She sipped her coffee and stared out as the dawn lightened the sky above them. Her tunic rested on the chair behind her. She stood in her under sweater and trousers. She checked her status reports each morning. She did a double take when she pulled up the flight rosters and noticed a "U" for unavailable after Kacey's name. Kate checked the rosters for several days and found the same "U" her name.
"Why the Hell did she do that?" Kate asked herself. "Did she do that because she thought I would? Is there something physically wrong with her, that she has not told any one about?"
Kate jumped when she felt arms capture her from behind. "You were deep in thought, my Kate. I did not mean to startle you." Anya said and kissed the top of Kate's head.
"That is all right Anya. I was lost in thought."
"Would you like to talk about it?"
"Kacey pulled herself off the flight schedule for the next few days."
"Do you have a problem with that? With her safely on the ground you might just be able to relax a little."
"Do you think she is sick or injured?"
"I think that is something you should ask her. She could have pulled herself off the schedule before you could. You did threaten her with that." Anya stated. "What time is your meeting with her?"
"We did not set any specific time. I doubt she will answer any of my hails. She is very good at ignoring my calls."
"Then you need to find her and talk face to face. She can not ignore you then." Anya stated.
"You are so right my darling." Kate kissed her.
Kacey worked with the engineers to get the first generator running. Five other generators were in different stages of being built. She looked over the schematics for the generator. Kacey strapped her tool belt around her waist and went to help. Her communicator beeped several times.
"Are you ready to get everything synched up?" She asked.
"Just about Colonel. We are doing the final check on all the connections now. The pipes to the gas field are installed along with the shut off valve. When all the generators are completed, one switch will control them all. Give us fifteen minutes then you can get everything synched up."
"All right." Kacey said and went back to study the schematics while she waited.
She read over the specs several times. Each generator would produce a shield that would cover twenty five kilometers in each direction on the ground and two kilometers up. When all the generators were up and running, the Brin would be protected for one hundred fifty kilometers. According to Govan, that was their hunting area. The Brin would be able to go from section to section without leaving the protection of the shields. They had also carved out a series of tunnels underground to go between sections.
The Brin were willing to leave the rest of their planet alone. Animals avoided the area where the trilithium was found as if they sensed the danger.
Kacey nodded at the details the engineers put into the design of the generators, yet made them easy to use.
"We are ready for you Colonel."
"Thank you Sergeant." Kacey double checked her equipment and walked to the generator. She got under the machine and placed the ear buds in her ears. She connected the meter to the bottom of the generator and started to adjust the systems. Her communicator continued to beep throughout the morning. Kate would not leave her alone.. Kacey knew it would not last. Eventually Kate would seek her out instead of relying on their communicators. She pushed out from under the generator. "Everything is synched up and ready to test. Time to fire up this baby and see what she can do." She stated.
Everyone backed away from the large generator. The engineer flipped the switch. The generator came to life with a soft hum.
"Excellent." Kacey said. "Send out a two minute warning for everyone to move to the safe area." A loud siren sounded warning everyone of the test. The safe area was a fifty meter strip outside the furthest edge of the shield.
"The area is clear, Colonel."
"Good. Bring the shield on line." Kacey ordered. "Raise shields." The hum increased slightly. "What ships are the closest to run the test?"
"Shuttle four and Stingers twenty seven and twenty eight."
"Have them get into position."
"Yes ma'am" The tech stated.
"Shuttle four, Stingers twenty seven and twenty eight, get into position to run test on shield."
"Roger. Heading into position." The voice said. "Will contact you when we are in position." Several minutes later the voice came back. "In position three kilometers from the shield."
"FIRE." Kacey ordered as she raised binoculars to her eyes to watch the test. Those around her did the same. They watched the shots leave the ships and bounce harmlessly off the shield. "Do that again. Weapons at maximum and fire." She ordered again. Once again the shots bounced off the shield. "Ladies and gentlemen, excellent job. I think it is safe to say that the shield works. Go grab lunch." She said loudly. She sighed and thought, now for the difficult notification. She picked up her radio, hoping that someone other than Kate was on the Bridge to answer. "Colonel O'Malley to Bridge."
"Go ahead lass."
"First shield generator has been brought on line and successfully tested."
"Tis good to hear. Congratulations."
"Thanks, dad. If we have no problems, we should have them all up and running in a week to ten days. Then the Brin will be protected for a hundred fifty kilometers on the ground."
"Very good, Kacey. Have ye talked to Kate yet today?
"No. I have been busy. Have to go dad."
"Lass talk to her." Kacey did not respond to her father's last order. She clipped the radio to her belt and walked away from the generator.
Natalia waited for her. She carried a lunch basket while she pushed the carriage where their children slept. She felt the smile as it started. Kacey took the basket from Natalia and steered them away from the work area. Kacey spread the blanket Natalia brought on the ground. She placed the basket on the blanket and help Natalia to sit before she sat. Natalia divided their meal and poured drinks.
"Tell me about your morning." Natalia said.
"The first shield is up, running and tested. How about you?"
"The babies have been really good. I think Patrick is starting to like his bath. At least he did not howl in outrage like he usually does."
"That is good to hear. Little Mac has quite the lungs when he wants to he heard. How about Caitlyn?"
"She loves her bath."
"What she loves is that special mommy time with you. I know I certainly do."
"Sweet talker." Natalia stated with a smile. "You mom told me you hated a bath when you were a baby."
"What can I tell you. I probably was thinking of doing other things and the bath got in the way."
Natalia laughed. "Like what? What could a baby Kacey think about?" She asked. Kacey shrugged. "Kate visited after you left."
"What the Hell dis she want?"
"She is worried about you. She asked if you were sick or hurt."
"Because I took myself off the flight schedule?" Natalia nodded. "What did you tell her?"
"The same thing I am going to tell you. This is between the two of you and I will not get pulled into the middle. I talked to Anya and your parents and they say the same thing. We are taking a step back and let the both of you work this out. I hope you are not angry with me."
"Not at all sweetheart. I am glad you are all out of it. I do not want to jeopardize your relationship with my family."
"I am happy to hear that. What will you do this afternoon?"
"I am going to take a rover and check the progress of the other generators. To be perfectly honest, hide from Kate in the process. I am not up to another battle with her."
"Won't postponing it only make it worse?"
"Maybe, but there are times when that works best for us." Kacey told her. "Eventually we will come up against a problem we will not be able to get past. This could be that time."
"Do you know you say that just about every time you two fight?"
"Do I?" Natalia nodded. "The time is coming when it will happen."
"Promise me one thing?"
"Sure if it is in my power."
"When you and Kate finally get around to finishing your argument, that you do not decide to celebrate by drinking in the bar? Drink at home."
"You have a great deal of confidence in us, but yes, if it happens, I promise." She kissed Natalia and helped her packed up the remnants of their lunch. Kacey folded the blanket and draped it over the handle of the carriage. She handed the empty basket to Natalia, kissed her then kissed the still sleeping babies. "I will walk you back to Andromeda." She released the brake and pushed the carriage. Natalia put her hand on Kacey's arm as they walked.
"Will you be late tonight?"
"I should not be, but I will let you know if that changes. Did you talk to Anya about returning to work?"
"I did. We will be filling in all the information we have collected into the star charts and updating the sensor logs. I spoke to the day care nurse and they are ready for the twins."
"What about their feedings?"
"They are on a schedule so I will be able to go nurse them when I need to. Monday I will return to work. It will be hard to leave them."
"I know and so does Anya. She is the best person on the ship to help you through this newest change."
"Thank you for walking me back. Now go back to work Colonel so you will not be late."
"Yes ma'am." Kacey joked, kissed Natalia's cheek and headed for a rover.
CHAPTER 38 B
Kacey climbed into the rover and started it.
"Going somewhere Colonel?"
Kacey sighed and turned in the seat to see Kate walking down the ramp. She turned the rover off. "As a matter of fact I am on my way to check the other generators."
"Alone?" Kate asked.
"I am a big girl Captain. Yes I will be going ALONE." She emphasized the word.
"What are you taking for weapons?"
"I am not a novice Captain. I have a phasic rifle, and side arm. I have water and a radio with me also."
"I will go with you."
"No thank you, Captain. I do not need a babysitter."
"Seems to me I made a statement and did not ask your permission."
Kacey sighed again. "Then you had better get weapons yourself and contact Rhea. We can not ignore regulations Captain."
"All right. Wait for me." Kate ordered and went into the Hanger. As soon as Kate disappeared from view, Kacey restarted the rover and left. She floored the rover to put as much distance as possible between her and Andromeda. She drove quickly for the coordinates to the second generator. Kate and Rhea walked down the ramp to find the rover and Kacey gone. "GOD DAMN IT." She yelled. "Get someone out here to drive a rover. We are going to follow her."
"Kate all the rovers are already out on the surface."
"Then get my shuttle ready."
"I think you should leave her alone until she is ready."
"WHAT THE HELL IS THIS, IGNORE THE CAPTAIN'S ORDERS DAY?" Kate yelled.
"Of course not Captain." Rhea said. "Give me a few minutes to do the preflight and we will go look for her."
"Rhea, I am sorry I yelled at you. I should not take my anger at my head strong sister out on you."
"Kate I know there is a great deal of tension between you both right now."
"Tension? That is the biggest understatement I have heard in a long time."
"We have been friends for many years, so I am going to offer some unasked for advice. Leave Kacey alone until she is ready to sit down and talk rationally and calmly. You both have a lot of anger yet. Give it time to dissipate."
"You do remember who we are talking about? This is Kacey, the one who can hold a mad for a long time."
"I know who we are talking about, Kate. Pushing her to talk before she is ready will only make her madder and increase the tension between you."
"So I am just supposed to ignore her latest insubordination?"
"What did she do that was so wrong?"
"I told her to wait for me. That she was not to go off alone."
"She is a Marine Colonel and does not need a baby sitter."
"Kacey said the same thing."
"Kate she is much better suited to survive on the ground. It is what she is trained for. She is not that skinny kid any more. She is a very capable adult with a wife and children. Give her time. Do not force her to talk to you before she is ready." Rhea said again.
Kate was silent for several heartbeats. "Perhaps you are right. Come on my friend, I will buy you a coffee."
"Of course I am right Kate. Who else besides your parents have known you as long as I have. I believe it is my turn to buy the coffee."
The two walked back into the Hanger.
To be continued...
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